Owl Shadows

About a month ago, I travelled home to the onion farm where I was raised. My parents still live in that glorious farmhouse of memory and it is a place I often visit for renewal and soul healing. While there I know that I am surrounded by the love of family and the heart of holy ground. The house is located in what was once a place of sacred food gathering for the Kalapuya Indians. Generations ago this land helped sustain a people with camas roots and wapato roots. Today, it sustains families with onions, berries, wheat, and hazelnuts. The farmers I know love and revere the land, with it’s rich black soil, in the way it’s ancestors intended. When I visit, I feel the brief history of farming families and the long history of Native people. The ancestors never left that land and their presence has sustained me throughout my life.

On my last visit, as I was falling asleep, I heard the distinct hooting of the Owl People. There were two, some distance apart, calling to each other. I imagined one to be a large male and the other to be a smaller female. They had a good conversation. I wish I could tell you what they said, but I do not speak Owl. What I do know is that their talk helped me fall asleep.

The next day, I posted a note on Facebook about the owl lullabies I had heard and the responses were many, but what stood out the most was my Umatilla Grandmother’s warning that Owls portend death. I have thought a lot about this.

Last night, before falling asleep, I was struggling for a topic for today’s post. I reached into my medicine pouch and once again, whispered to my ancestors with the aide of tobacco. I asked them for a dream that would help me know what to write. I had many dreams. I dreamed of scones with white frosting and red sprinkles, I dreamed of burglars, I dreamed of my parents house, I dreamed of my boyfriend and my family. I also had an Owl dream. I was standing in the front yard of my parents house and I was spinning around. I was very happy. It was a bright and sunny day, the grass was green, the sky was blue and I felt like a child at play. There were others on the lawn with me. People dressed in white, dancing in the background; joy on everyone’s faces. Then I saw the Owl. I didn’t know what it was at first. It was flying in circles around me. I was staring up at it and asking if anyone else saw it. No one else could. I thought maybe it was a hawk or a vulture. I tried to move away from it, but it followed me. Finally, I lifted my arm to it and it opened itself up in a great glory of gray, white, and brown speckled feathers and landed on my finger in all of it’s Owl Beauty. That is when the people dancing around me, saw the Owl. Everyone stood in a circle around me, admiring it’s beauty. The Owl looked only at me, with large, round yellow eyes. I was amazed that a bird so large felt so light as it balanced on my finger. The Owl and I floated to the ground. It stood on the grass in front of me and I laid down on my stomach admiring it. Our gaze could not be broken.

This is a lot of Owl medicine in one month. And when your Indian Grandma tells you it is a sign of death, you pay attention.

Do I think death is knocking on my door? Sort of. Not a physical death (at least I hope not), but the death of an old way of being in the world. The death of a self blocked by fear. The death of a self who would rather cower before the darkness than walk into it with a heart full of courage. These old pieces of my identity are in need of healing and Owl has come to walk with me into the dark. The Owls outside my window and the Owl in my dream have one thing in common . . . love. They have never been menacing, dark, fearsome creatures. They are compassionate, caring, loving, soulful beings. And sometimes a Woman Storyteller needs to be reminded to love her own darkness.

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5 thoughts on “Owl Shadows

  1. I was given the owl by my grandmother, when I was about nine. She warned me that it is a very powerful thing to have. Some people believe that the owl always speaks death, but I was not taught that. It means transition; sometimes that is death, but death is also a part of life, one of its transitions. She told me to listen very carefully, and gently, because a misinterpretation could cause harm. It is a great responsibility. I have told few people about this, knowing that most would not understand, having heard only the story about the owl call meaning death (and maybe dismissing it all as superstition). I smiled as I read your writing, because you seem to have discovered the truth of it on your own. Welcome, sister. I am glad to have found your blog.

    By the way: it is the female owl who is larger than the male! This is true of most raptors and many other birds as well.

  2. Sweet Melissa. It is so good to be here in your space…I want you to know that I feel all of your words so deeply and I understand what it means to be in the dark, it seems to be lurking in every corner lately. It seems everywhere I turn someone is writing about darkness/struggle/fear. I’ve been writing about it quite a lot on my own blog.

    I’m so glad that sweet owl keeps visiting you, bringing you messages of love. YOU are a compassionate, caring, loving, soulful being…

    I put the below prayer on my blog today–It’s out of Elizabeth Lesser’s book “Broken Open,” a book I think you need to pick up if you haven’t read it already. This is my prayer for you, sweet friend. You are so loved.

    “I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith–faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don’t waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. After years of teaching, I know only a few things for sure. One of them is this: We are chunks of dense matter that need to be cracked open. Our errors and failings are chinks in the heart’s armor through which our true colors can shine.” Elizabeth Lesser

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